September 6, 2016

Guest Blog Post - How to Pack More into Less

One of my greatest "trials" in packing shoeboxes is fitting in everything I want to send-lol!  So, I'm always trying to figure out how to get one more thing in.  I love to hear other's ideas on the subject, and as there doesn't seem to be much out there on fitting more in shoeboxes, I decided to start a series of posts on it.  I have a couple in draft, but first here's a guest post I asked Amy Lukens to write!

How to Pack More into Less
You Really Can Fit a Lot into the Preprinted Boxes.
By Amy Lukens

Just as any of you reading this, packing shoeboxes is my passion. I am an Operation Christmas Child Area Coordinator in the Upper Midwest Region and have been packing shoeboxes for over 15 years. Lots of practice and natural spatial awareness have helped me to figure out ways to pack a lot in a little shoebox.

Before I go any further, I want to point out that this is how I pack my boxes. It is not the “right” way to pack. God has placed certain items on my heart to pack or not pack. He may have placed different items on your heart and that is perfect. The shoeboxes go to a variety of children with different needs and wants. Also I do pack mostly in OCC’s Preprinted boxes, but I will also pack a slightly larger box if needed. Certain items like teenage boy’s tennis shoes will not fit into the Preprinted boxes no matter how much you try. I will pack a little larger box such as a 6qt plastic box if necessary.
Here is how I pack my shoeboxes:

1. Remove packaging!
As soon as I bring my items home from the store, I remove every last bit of unnecessary packaging. My rule of thumb is: if the packaging is not useful after the item is opened, remove it. Items like crayons are in a box that will be used later to store the crayons so they stay. Items like puzzles, I take out of the box, cut out the picture and put in a ziplock bag. Others will open the box and add more items inside. Both save space.

It surprises many to see how much space packaging truly takes up. My awesome video editing brother, Andrew Lukens, and I made this video to help our church understand the importance of removing packaging. We even surprised ourselves!

2. Organize well.
This will look different depending on how many boxes you pack and how much space you have. I pack 30ish boxes and have limited storage, so I organize my items into the following categories:
  • Paper (notebooks, coloring books and loose paper)
  • Stickers (all my boxes get stickers – they take up no space)
  • School Supplies
  • Stuffed Animal (every box gets one)
  • Clothing
  • Hygiene Items
  • Larger Toys
  • Smaller Toys
  • Useful Items
  • Accessories

3. Choose items carefully.
First, I pick out my wow item (for most this is the stuffed animal, but I may add a second as well). Then I fill in with my other categories, starting with items I want in every box such as all the school supplies and the hygiene items before moving on to the other categories. This is when I start having to get choosy. If I chose a large stuffed animal or a soccer ball and pump to pack the rest of the items I choose will need to be smaller. I might need to choose flip flops over tennis shoes, a few small toys over another larger one, or a small flashlight over a hammer.

4. Pack smaller items inside of larger hollow items
Here is my favorite example from the bottom layer of a one of my 10-14-year-old girl boxes this year.

 This is a water bottle full of underwear inside a shoe. The shoe also has some things tucked into the toe and around the water bottle.

5. Stuffed animals are full of air
I don’t even use ziplock bags to press the air out of my stuffed animals I just close the lid. The boxes don’t always stay completely shut with just a rubber band, but they will once taped closed without any budging.

Here are a couple examples of large stuffed animals.

This bear does not look like it will fit, but that lid did shut all the way and there are still a variety of other items.

1. Take your time
Try fitting things one way and if it doesn’t work. Try another way or switch items. Packing a shoebox is like a jigsaw puzzle. It takes patience and time.

Since Pictures speak a thousand words, I’m going to close by showing several examples of what can fit if you take your time and treat each box like its own individual puzzle.

Here is an example of a Boy 2-4 box and how each item fit inside:


This box did close without any bulging

Examples of what can fit:

September 3, 2016

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 9/3/2016

 I got some fun items at Dollar General's 50% off clearance last weekend:

I also found sum "summer" toys on (unmarked) clearance 75% off at CVS-so 75 cents a piece.

I also forgot to include this photo last week.  I found these at Walgreens 90% off for 69 cents a piece. I know that's more than say the 17 cent lined paper notebooks at Walmart, but these were so nice, I thought it would be worth more-almost a WOW item for some of my 10-14 girls.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $7.29

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $4

Added to stockpile:
  • 9 water bottles
  • 1 Lego type kit
  • 6 sheet stickers
  • 1 construction vehicle toy
  • 4 sets jacks (could be split into 8 sets if needed-1 ball and 8 jacks each)
  • 1 yo-yo
  • 3 nice journals

Happy Packing!

August 27, 2016

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 8/28/2016

I picked up another package of of the cute toddler baseballs on clearance at CVS.

I picked up a package of envelopes from Walmart to add to the oldest age group's boxes.
I got some mechanical pencils free at CVS.

I was able to hit a couple Dollar Generals to take advantage of their 50% off all clearance deal.

I also picked up some items for the shoeboxes I'm tasked with shopping for a packing party with the kids at my church...posted some of that on the Simply Shoe Box Facebook page.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $6.30

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $5.95

Added to stockpile:
  • 5 toddler baseball
  • Package of envelopes
  • Package of mechanical pencils
  • 4 water bottles
  • Decorative pencil
  • Package of whistles
  • 2 packages of stickers
  • 2 Lego type kits

Happy Packing!

August 22, 2016

Crayon Brands Coloring Test

There's a great variety of prices of crayons, especially at back to school sale time from fifty cents to a penny.  So many to choose!  We want to send nice things to the children in our boxes, but we don't want to spend money just to get a name.  So I decided to do some tests.

We tested five brands for both coloring quality and resistance to heat (that they might experience in transit).  The brands we tested were Crayola which you can normally get for $0.50 at Walmart & Dollar General during back to school sales.  Cra-Z-Art are normally $0.25 during back-to-school sales at Walmart.  Playskool can be found at Dollar Tree and other dollar stores for $1.  Dollar General offers a brand I*Magine often 3 for $1 or $0.33/$0.34 a piece at Back-to-school.  Also at Office Depot I got some Scholastic brand for $0.01.   All those prices are for 24 count except Playskool that is 36.  Now crayons exact make up may change from year to year, or from batch to batch, especially cheaper ones that may have less stringent controls, but this is the best info we can give you.   For those who are concerned about manufacture location:  most of the boxes said made in China, Crayola said made in the USA, but some are also made Mexico, you'll have to check the package if it matters to you.

First, how do they color?

Everyone has different preferences in coloring tools.  For instance, I prefer gel pens and hate ball point pens, but other members of my family like ball point and don't like gel pens.  So, it's hard to tell what others look for in crayons, but here's how our test turned out (thanks to my mom, Cheryl for testing and writing the guest review):

"For overall ease of use I was surprised that I found all the crayons easy to color with.  They all put down nice color.  So overall I would gladly share any of the five brands with a child in my life.  Now for the specifics.

Heavy Pressure Coloring Test Results

I wanted to see how the crayons held up under heavy pressure coloring and how the colors stayed true to the crayon itself.  Also, if the crayons wore down quickly.  I was surprised that all of the crayons seemed to hold up well and none of them broke as I colored.  Details of each are below image.

Fish image from Crafting for Shoeboxes Colouring Booklets.
  1. Crayola
    1. Rich color; pretty even coverage.
    2. Closely matches color of crayon.
    3. Left the most "crumbles" of all the crayons tested.
  2. CraZArt (WalMart)
    1. Rich color; a little less even coverage than Crayola, but not much.
    2. Color was true to crayon.
    3. Was crumbly, too, but not as much as Crayola.
  3. Playskool (Dollar Tree)
    1. Compared to the others, the color was much lighter than the crayon, but had nice, even coverage.
    2. The results looked much more like colored pencils.  Which I thought for older children, or adults, would be nice.
    3. It was impossible to get a dark, rich color even with much pressure.
    4. Were not very crumbly.
    5. Actually, these were my favorite to color with.
  4. I*Magine (Dollar General)
    1. Did not color as darkly.
    2. Least even coverage.
    3. Surprising not very crumbly.
    4. Probably my least favorite.
  5. Scholastic (Office Depot)
    1. Colored quite darkly.
    2. Left some white spaces, but pretty much colored nicely.
    3. Not excessively crumbly.
I also tried coloring gently on a scrap piece of paper and each one performed pretty much as above.  You can see the heavy and light pressure coloring on in this image:

In conclusion, as I said earlier, I was surprised by the results (I went into the test with pre-conceived opinions as to "name brand means better") and that I would gladly share any of these crayons with a special child in my life.  As for sending them in an Operation Christmas Child shoebox gift that is going to depend on the results of the heat/melting test.  If they melt in transit they will not do the child any good.  And they may leave oily residue on the other gifts in the box."

I also put some strong (but not excessive pressure) on all of the crayons and still none of them broke, so they all seemed surprisingly sturdy.

You can also see a test done by a five year old that Clip with Purpose did here: .

If you'd like to make some coloring books to go with your crayons stop by Crafting for Shoeboxes and download the Colouring Booklets.  She has them for all ages and sizes for both US and European paper sizes.

Second, how do they hold up to heat?

There have been some concerns about how some crayons might hold up to high temperatures they may be exposed to in transit to their recipients.  So, we did some tests to see how the different brands held up to different temperatures, you can see the results here if you're interested on this blog soon, I'll edit this post to add a link once it's done.

So, that's what we found from out tests...hope this helps someone make a more informed decision on which brand to send, it's helped us decide.  If you do a large number, you might want to test them for yourself-we plan to put the unused crayons from the test boxes in soap boxes and send them in shoeboxes (unless any brands fail the heat stress test).

Happy Packing!

August 20, 2016

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 8/20/2016

My sister and I both were able to stop and pick up the penny deals at Office Depot, I only got a photo of mine, though, but we got double of this. I'm waiting to decide on whether or not to send this brand of crayons until I do some more tests on it's quality.
I stopped by Dollar General and picked up a few of the Summer toys marked 40% off...they rang up 66% off (no clue why).  So I picked up some more, then when I went to another one and picked up a couple things to test the clearance, and it wasn't on clearance at all! ...odd!!

I also picked up some of these cute toddler baseballs 50% off at CVS

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $10.71

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $3.74

Added to stockpile:
  • 16 jump ropes
  • 1 par work gloves
  • 1 butterfly toy
  • 1 kite string 
  • 5 toddler baseballs
  • 60 pens
  • 6 pencils sharpeners

Happy Packing!

August 13, 2016

Shoebox Stockpile Saturday ~ 8/13/2016

My sister and I were both able to stop by Dollar General and use their digital coupon for $5 off $20 school supplies for sale items, so ended up with all this:

My sister had just signed up for Dollar General digital coupons, and got a $1 off any $1.01 purchase, used it to pick a pack of combs and a jump rope that was 40% off with the other summer toys.

We also both stopped at Office Depot and both picked up the poly notebooks and mini boxes (for fishing kits)

I also stopped by Mighty Dollar to pick up some more of those super cute foam animal puzzles I found last week.

Spent from shoebox packing budget: $40.12

Spent from gift cards earned or won online: $0

Added to stockpile:
  • 40 boxes of 24 Crayola Crayons
  • 13 boxes of 12 Crayola colored pencils 
  • 14 packs of 18 pencils
  • 1 pack of 3 combs
  • 1 jumpropes 
  • 6 mini boxes
  • 6 poly notebooks
  • 4 sets of foam animal puzzles (8 animals per set plus 2 scenes)

Happy Packing!
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